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How Do You Service an Exotic Car That’s Never Driven?

Hello and welcome to another round of Ask Doug, your favorite weekly column wherein you ask Doug some sort of automotive question, and Doug grumpily responds before returning to bed. If you’d like to participate in Ask Doug, you can!! Just e-mail me at OversteerDoug@gmail.com, and I will consider answering your question, or at least forwarding it to my friends so we can make fun of you.

This week’s question comes to me from a reader I’ve named Kenny, who writes:

Hi, Dougy McDoug DeMuro.

We all know how regular cars are maintained, but my question is, how do they maintain exotics like Ferrari F40, F50, Enzo and others? They won’t drive those. The cars enjoy temperature-controlled garages, etc. In your Autotrader finds, I’ve seen mention of being serviced at authorized dealers instead of Big Jimmy’s and how that increases the value. But what do you do if the car is driven just three miles a year?

Kenny

Kenny asks an interesting question here, and I’ll recite it for you now for those of you who don’t want to pick through his mediocre grammar. The question is: Many ultra-low-mileage cars say online that they’re "fully serviced" — but what exactly does "fully serviced" mean for a Ferrari Enzo, or something of the sort, that’s only driven 100 miles a year or less?

I’ve often wondered this question, Kenny, so a few years ago I started openly asking people who had these ultra-low mileage cars: What do you do for service? Do you take it in regularly? Do you, like, get the oil changed? What I discovered is that there’s a wide variation in answers.

Some people simply let the cars sit. This isn’t as horrible of an idea as many car people make it out to be. Yes, sure, some rubber stuff degrades and will need to be replaced, but as long as you make sure it’s in a relatively climate-controlled area, free of water or other potential damage, a car that sits for a long time can someday be woken up again with just a little work: a new battery, maybe; some fresh gas, perhaps. Even though some people advise you never to let cars sit, the truth is that cars are pretty resilient, and they can handle it. Of course, this advice mainly applies to cars that sit for a year or two, not for a decade.

Many others actually do some basic maintenance. I once spoke to a Ferrari 288 GTO owner, who told me he gets yearly oil changes, even though he never drives his car. He doesn’t even drive it to the Ferrari dealer for the oil changes — he trailers it. But he keeps the car in good shape, and if the dealer tells him some rubber part is worn out or brittle with age, he replaces it. I’ve talked to a few people with this sort of situation who even tell me they do the belt services on time.

Although this may sound crazy, one big reason the never-drives-it crowd owns these cars is for investment purposes — and keeping them perfectly maintained absolutely increases their investment value. Not only does it show good, prideful ownership, but it proves the car just didn’t sit around, wasting away, and was actually cared for. Most importantly, a never-drives-it person may sell the car to a drives-it-a-lot person, and the new buyer will probably want to ensure it’s in good enough shape to get on the road.

I’ve also met a lot of people who do something I don’t recommend at all: They drive the cars, but just so sparingly that they don’t bother with silly items like oil changes and belt services. Seriously, I’ve been to several collections where people have eight or ten cars, and they enjoy driving each one maybe 800 miles a year, and they believe they don’t have time to deal with all the service histories for each one — so the cars go neglected. If you’re driving only 800 miles a year, you can probably stretch out an oil change for a lot longer than in a normal car — but I wouldn’t want to wait as long as some people.

Of course, there’s also the final type of collector: The guy who has a collection so large, and a budget so big, that he pays a mechanic to work on his cars part- or full-time. Obviously, this is Jay Leno’s situation — but it’s also true of Jerry Seinfeld, Ralph Lauren and hundreds of other not-so-celebrities you’ve never heard of with the car collection to match their massive net worth. In my experience, this is the best life for these cars: The full-time mechanic not only keeps close tabs on each vehicle, but usually ensures they’re all in tip-top condition — and this situation provides the benefit of the mechanic knowing each car individually, rather than a dealership service department, which services hundreds of cars each month.

So, Kenny, there’s your answer to a question I know a lot of people are wondering. My advice: If you’re considering an Enzo, or an F50, or any exotic car, and you don’t plan to drive it very much … at least keep it maintained. And email me, so I can review it.

MORE FROM OVERSTEER:
The Lotus Esprit Is the Last Affordable Exotic Car
Here’s Why Everybody Loves the Honda S2000
5 Cars That Live Up to Their Hype

 
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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6 COMMENTS

  1. One thing I don’t quite understand about ultra-low mileage cars and oil changes: if Mobil 1 (for example) has a shelf life of 5 years in a jug in your garage, why would it have a useful life of only 1 year in the sump of a car that’s never driven?

  2. I’m one of those mechanics who does onsite collection maintenance all over the country. Annual oil changes, fresh fuel, battery tenders and drives are all part of the services rendered, among others.

  3. I rarely drive my classic Porsche.  I make sure all the major stuff is in good shape.  Once a week or so the car goes around the block or is started and ran for a few minutes.  If ran I will rev the engine at a slow rate to clean out the exhaust.  I change the oil and other fluids every 3-6 months.  I have not owned the car long enough but at 1K miles a year I think it is a safer bet to replace the timing belt every 2 or 3 years (5 max).

    • Have you e-mailed Doug so he can review it and give it a DougScore(tm)?  His scores are lacking in classic Porsches atm.

  4. One other option. There are businesses in large cities (I know of two in Houston) that store the car in a climate controlled warehouse and perform any maintenance requested by their on site mechanics. It really is a great option and the cost is very reasonable for somebody who already has the money for these sorts of toys.

  5. Interesting article.  I having been think a lot about this as my family has a 1977 Buick Riviera with 12k miles than has not moved in 15+ years.  It is stored in an insulated garage, but I am worried the car is going to need to be towed to a mechanic before it can be safely started and used.

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